The subject of the maximum payload, or the total weight of you and your belongings within your vehicle's plated maximum gross weight is quite tricky to get a grasp of for the new motor home owner. Many owners will be merrily travelling the country completely unaware that they are possibly travelling illegally in one way or another. I will attempt to explain here, in relation to UK law of course, which also comes under the EU banner.
There are current driving licence restrictions in the UK which restrict certain groups of driver to certain vehicles. What we are discussing here is a standard car license, which generally allows the holder to drive vehicles up to 3500 kg's gross weight, and motor homes in this bracket fall into the taxation class PLG. Motor homes between 3500 kg's and 7500 kg's gross fall into the upper taxation bracket of PHGV, and it is in this class that certain restrictions apply. Basically though, if like me you passed your driving test before 1st January 1997 you will automatically hold the entitlement to drive these vehicles until you reach 70 years of age, when a medical examination complete with a GP's letter will be required to renew it with this entitlement. Those who passed their test after this date will not hold the entitlement and will have to pass a further driving test to obtain what is known as Class C1 entitlement. Read more on the subject HERE. There is also a link to the UK Government website for further reading from there.
Many new motor homes are rated at a maximum gross weight of 3500 kg's, as they will appeal to a wider market. This includes the current 2014 range of Rapido 8 and 9 series A class motor homes. See Rapido UK website. However, they can usually be specified with a heavier plated gross weight in order to provide a higher payload if required. This brings me to the buyer of a used motor home. If your ideal purchase is rated at the "standard" 3500 kg's, and you are able to drive a heavier vehicle, and that would suit your needs better, then all is not lost. The chassis that the motor home is built on is often capable of being "up-plated" without any need of modification, and is often just a paper exercise, with a new, higher rated vehicle plate being issued afterwards. More information on this can be found with this specialist company, SV-Tech. They are able to offer advice on how to achieve an up-rated vehicle. For example, each axle is plated at its own design weight. Adding accessories as simple as a bicycle carrier won't just add the weight of that and the cycles to the payload. As leverage also plays a part, the distance from the rear axle also has to be considered, and the actual weight added to the rear axle could be more than the actual weight of the accessory.
"The unladen weight of a motor home includes the weight of the vehicle's standard equipment. Currently, unladen weight also includes an average driver (75 kg's), 1 X gas bottle, fresh water and fuel tanks up to 90% of their capacity with a tolerance of +/- 5% in accordance with European Directive EC 92/21. It is therefore the responsibility of the driver to adjust the load and limit the number of passengers on board according to the payload and the weight of any equipment that he/she installed or had installed in the vehicle".
So, what have we bought. Our Rapido 963f, an A class motor home, built on the Fiat 2.8 JTD chassis is plated at a maximum gross weight of 3500 kg's. It leaves the French factory with an unladen weight of around 3100 kg's. (While I am here, I would always recommend a potential new owner to have their new buy weighed at a public weighbridge to verify its weight before signing on the dotted line, as many things could have been done to the vehicle which would increase its weight, such as additional accessories. This would of course reduce the available payload). Back to our Rapido, which we have bought with the intention of possibly sharing with our son and his family. (He has a post 1997 car driving licence).
Rapido motor homes are built for the European market, and don't come fitted with an oven/grill, as is quite common for Continental motor homes. Hymer, for example are the same. However, they can be fitted with what is known as a UK pack, to be sold here. This includes an oven/grill at 14.5 kg's, a living area carpet at 9 kg's and a Truma electric/gas blown air heating system at 0.6 kg's. Ours is also fitted with the ladder/roof bars accessory, which adds a further 10 kg's. All these weights have to be added to the factory unladen weight, and thus are removed from the available payload. The factory unladen weight of our 963f is 3160 kg's, including the weight of the UK pack, which gives us an available payload of 340 kg's. This unladen weight includes 90% of the tank levels and the driver only - additional passengers also form part of the payload allowance. The 963f was also available as a higher rated vehicle at 3850 kg's gross, which would give it increased payload, but would also place it in the PHGV taxation class, with the license restrictions.
Rapido A class motor homes are usually fitted with a very large "garage" at the rear of the vehicle, as is ours. This could easily swallow a small motor scooter, but at around 100 kg's, would probably not be possible within our available payload. Consequently ours, with the standard plated gross weight of 3500 kg's will have to be closely monitored so as not to overload the plated rear axle weight allowance.
As you will probably now see, this is a complex subject, and I suspect many owners will be driving around in their motor home blissfully unaware that they are overweight. I intend to load ours with everything we will take away with us, and have it re-weighed at our local public weighbridge. The alternative is to risk being stopped and weighed by one of the VOSA patrols, (now known as the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency after March 2014), you often see lurking around our motorway system, with not only the inconvenience of not being allowed to proceed with your journey, but also having to fork out a large fine if you are found to be too heavy.
* Update. On 18th June 2014 I took our Rapido 963f to a public weighbridge in fully loaded touring trim, including me, the driver, 40% water tank, 0% waste tank, and half a tank of diesel The certificated results are as follows:
Gross weight overall: 3340 kg - (Plated max gross weight is 3500 kg).
Front axle weight: 1640 kg - (Plated max front axle weight is 1850 kg).
Rear axle weight: 1660 kg - (Plated max rear axle weight is 2120 kg).
So, we are well within limits, even when loaded, although Margaret's weight would also have to be included in the sum, but she's keeping that to herself. I might even consider an 85kg 50cc scoot for the garage now. The Pulse Scout 49 would ideally fit the bill both in weight and physical size for local transport once at our destination - I hold a full motorcycle license, but this would be a little different from my Yamaha R1 I had until a couple of years ago.